Friday, October 2, 2015

Samal kidnappers' local contact identified

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 2): Samal kidnappers' local contact identified

THE local contact of kidnappers who abducted four people at the Holiday Ocean View Resort on the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) has been identified.

An official who has personal knowledge of the ongoing investigation said the local contact hosted the kidnappers while they stayed in the vicinity of Igacos for three days before the kidnapping incident.

The local contact is said to be holding the mobile phone taken by the kidnappers from an American couple inside the resort on the night of the kidnapping. This same gadget is said to be the reason authorities were able to trace the local contact of the kidnappers, who are now believed to be in Sulu.

The Special Investigation Task Group Oceanview is tight-lipped on any information regarding its investigation. Since last week, the task group only released one official update on the ongoing probe.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also did not give details, but admitted that such angle is now being looked into by the authorities.

Duterte confirmed that the kidnappers, numbering about 11 and the four kidnap victims -- Canadian nationals John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marithes Flor -- are already in Sulu.

Duterte said the kidnappers could be allied with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) or ASG members themselves.

The mayor appealed to the kidnappers or to the group who are now holding the victims not to harm them. He also indicated that the armed group holding the victims is expected to demand ransom in exchange for the safe release of the four captives.

But Duterte said they cannot negotiate with the kidnappers as the government still maintains its "no ransom policy."

"Pera-pera talaga yan. But we can't engage into any negotiations with them. Pero depende yan if willing magbigay yung families ng mga kidnap victims," Duterte said.

Also on Thursday, Duterte said that his request for a talk with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari had reached Misuari, who is now in hiding over his alleged involvement in the Zamboanga siege.

Duterte said he wanted to talk to Misuari to request the MNLF leader to ensure that the kidnap victims are not harmed by the kidnappers.

Sulu is a known bailiwick of Misuari and his group.

Abu Sayyaf camp found in Sulu

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Oct 2): Abu Sayyaf camp found in Sulu

GOVERNMENT troops have found a newly abandoned camp of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, as the offensive against the terrorists continues in the province of Sulu.

Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said the camp was found around 10:50 a.m. Friday in the village of Maligay, Patikul, while the troops were scouring the hinterlands.

The camp has 26 structures that can accommodate 60 people, said Arrojado.

He said that a group of around 15 Abu Sayyaf bandits were monitored to have used the camp three days ago and left before the troops arrived.

The government forces are continuously tracking down the Abu Sayyaf bandits following the launching last month of the "focused military operations (FMO)."

The targets of the FMO are the senior leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group and their foreign cohorts, who are hiding in the province of Sulu.

Kidnappping is cottage industry in Mindanao

From Tempo (Oct 3): Kidnappping is cottage industry in Mindanao

Kidnappings in Mindanao are widespread because ransoms are being paid and proceeds of which are being shared with the community, a source from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) claimed yesterday.
The four hostages seized from an upscale resort last Sept. 21 in Samal Island, Davao del Norte are somewhere at the foot of Mt. Bud Daho in Sulu being guarded not only by the kidnappers but other armed men in the area.
The hostages – Canadians John Ridsel and Robert Hall and his Filipino girlfriend Maritess Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad – are being held while kidnappers negotiate for ransom.
The MNLF source said contrary to the government’s no-ransom policy, ransoms were paid for those who were released or gained their freedom.
Poverty has driven many people to embrace kidnapping as a cottage industry, he added.
“Marami na daw tumutulong na may baril sa pag-secure ng apat na kidnapping victims dahil may share daw sila every time a ransom is paid,” the MNLF leader said.
Everyone who has a weapon is part of the security group, according to the source.

He said kidnappers share their loot to the lookouts, cooks, food and water carriers and other people who perform other tasks.
“Everyone in the farms (in Sulu) who has weapon,” he said, are joining the security for the two Canadians, a Norwegian, and a Filipino woman.

“It is the Enrile Doctrine, they want everybody happy,” he said.

The source was referring to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who popularized the campaign slogan: “Gusto ko happy ka.”

This kind of collaboration, according to the source, began during the high-profile kidnapping of 21 foreigners in Sabah’s Sipadan island resort by the Abu Sayyaf Group in 2000.

The ASG allegedly received $25 million from Libya’s leader, the late Colonel Muammar Qaddafy.

Since then, kidnappings have become commonplace in the region.

2 soldiers abducted; Cafgu killed in ambush

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 2): 2 soldiers abducted; Cafgu killed in ambush
A CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) member was killed while two soldiers were abducted following an ambush allegedly staged by suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Casoon in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, Wednesday afternoon.

The unidentified militiaman who was detailed at the Casoon Patrol Base in Monkayo was flagged down by the NPA rebels before he was gunned down.

Two unidentified soldiers who were on board the motorcycle were also abducted by the NPA rebels as they were accidentally traversing near the area.

Lieutenant Alexandre F. Cabales, acting spokesperson for the Army's 10th Infantry Division (ID), said they will not release the names of the abducted soldiers yet, as they will have to inform their respective families first.

The two soldiers were assigned at the 25th Infantry Battalion (IB).

Superintendent Antonio Rivera, spokesperson for the Police Regional Office-Davao, said that personnel of the Compostela Valley Provincial Police Office and Monkayo police are now conducting pursuit operation against the suspects.

"Police are now conducting checkpoints for possible identification and apprehension of the NPA rebels along with the abducted soldiers," Rivera told Sun.Star Davao in a text message Friday.

Rivera said the NPA rebels have fled to an unknown direction.

Lieutenant Colonel Mitchel Anayron, commander of the 25th IB, said that according to several eyewitnesses, the attack was perpetrated by members of the NPA's Guerilla Front 3.

The attack was allegedly spearheaded by alias Jinggoy, real name is Zaldy Canete, who is a noted notorious NPA commander.

Canete was previously detained at the Compostela Valley Provincial Jail but was released after posting bail worth P200,000 last July 10.

Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division (ID), condemned the murder of the Cafgu and kidnapping of the two soldiers.

"I am asking the community to pray for the safety of our soldiers. Rest assured, this incidents will not affect the commitment of 10th ID to bring peace in the region," Valencia said.

Army soldier may be released soon by NPAs

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 3): Army soldier may be released soon by NPAs

Private First Class (PFC) Jess Lupeba could be released soon by his New People’s Army (NPA) captors.

This was disclosed by the third party negotiator working for the release of the Army soldier, who has been in the hands of the NPA for more than three years and is believed being kept in the forested areas of Gingoog City.

Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), who is the leader of the third party negotiating team, said it was “now up to the NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) when it would release Lupeba, 26, a member of the Army’s 58th Infantry Battallion.”

The soldier was abducted during a raid of an Army patrol base in Alagatan, Gingoog City last July 11.

The third party facilitator yesterday asked the military units in the area to stand down where because the release of Lupeba might take place either in Gingoog City or in Misamis Oriental.

The NPA issued a statement that they will release Lupeba unconditionally as a gesture of goodwill to pave way for the resumption of peace talks with the government.

Early this week, the custodial force of the NPA also asked for a 10-day ceasefire for the safe release of the captive soldier.

The military and police commanders in the area here did not issue any statement regarding the demand of the NPA custodial force.

“However, there is now a possibility that the military might cease operations in the surrounding areas where the possible release of Lupeba might take place,” Calang said.

152 policemen complete PNP SCOUT training

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): 152 policemen complete PNP SCOUT training

Around 152 policemen have successfully completed the PNP Special Counter Insurgency Operation Unit Training (SCOUT) Friday.

National Capital Region Police (NCRPO) acting director Chief Supt. Joel D. Pagdilao said these police personnel completed 45 training days for the PNP Scout Program.

The program focuses in developing the trainees' skills and efficiency in search-and-rescue, air-to-ground operation, jungle survival training, and water-borne operations.

Pagdilao said this is mandatory for all Police Officer I (PO1) assigned with maneuver units/public safety forces such as the Regional Public Safety Battalion and District Public Safety Battalion.

The training is also geared toward developing their competence in addressing arising crime trends.

Pagdilao encouraged the police officers to continuously upgrade their skills to be able to cope up with any situation. He also reiterated that police presence and appearance is performance.

"We are a uniformed organization and being that, we must be the most disciplined and most skilled. People rely on us; let us not fail them,” he added.

Samal kidnap victims moved again, with other foreign hostages in Indanan, Sulu - intelligence report

From InterAksyon (Oct 3): Samal kidnap victims moved again, with other foreign hostages in Indanan, Sulu - intelligence report

The three foreigners and Filipina abducted from a resort on Samal Island on September 21 have been moved to an area in Indanan town, Sulu where other foreign hostages are being held, and are guarded by even more Abu Sayyaf gunmen, police intelligence said.

An intelligence report was shown said “the four kidnap victims from Davao del Norte were sighted being kept by their captors (in the area of) Tubig Maul, Barangay Sawaki, Indanan,” early Thursday afternoon, October 1.

It is the same area, the report said, where the Abu Sayyaf have been holding Malaysians Bernard Ghen Ted Fen and Thien Nyuk Fun, who were snatched from a restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah in May this year, and Korean Hong Nwi-seong, taken from the town of Roseller T. Lim in Zamboanga Sibugay in January.

The hostages, said the report, are guarded by around 200 Abu Sayyaf fighters led by Yasser Igasan, Angah Adji, Alhabsy Misaya, Furuji Indama, Idang Susukan and Raden Abu while 100 more gunmen, led by sub-leaders Mohammad Said, Marajan Hajiri and Aldren Bagade and armed with heavy weaponry including a recoilless rifle, “were seen scattered in (advantageous) location(s)” along a road leading to the area.

The move to Indanan came just a few days after Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Hall's Filipino partner Marites Flor were spotted in the adjacent town of Parang on September 26, where the military confirmed an outrigger canoe powered by twin engines was found on the same day.

Intelligence sources also indicated that the Samal hostages were taken straight to Sulu after they were seized from the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort, arriving in Patikul town past noon of September 22.

‘AID IN A MATTER OF HOURS’DND: US general’s words on helping PHL protect sovereignty ‘encouraging’

From GMA News (Oct 2): ‘AID IN A MATTER OF HOURS’DND: US general’s words on helping PHL protect sovereignty ‘encouraging’

The Department of National Defense has welcomed the statement of US Brigadier General Paul Kennedy, commander of the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, who said US forces would respond "within a matter of hours" if Philippine sovereignty was violated another country.

DND Spokesman Dr. Peter Galvez told GMA News Online on Friday that this was a great development between the two allies amid the continuing tension in the South China Sea.

“The Department sees General Kennedy's statement as an encouraging development and a clear signal of the United States' intention to promote security and stability in the region,” Galvez said.

Kennedy made the statement during the opening of the annual Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) at the Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio on Thursday.

“Sixty-four years, this alliance has held. Our mutual security has been upheld through the close working relationship that we have forged in that time,” Kennedy said.

“And I would tell anybody, and I see the press eagerly recording our words, I would tell you that if anybody would challenge the sovereignty of this country, their best friends within this region would respond within a matter of hours and generally, I assure you that that is not a hollow promise,” he added.

The Phiblex will involve over 1,500 soldiers including 860 US and 748 Filipino troops who will train Military encampments in Cavite, Tarlac and Zambales with Kennedy leading the US side of the exercises.

The Philippines is currently locked in a maritime dispute with China in conflicting claims over parts of the South China Sea which the latter claims in whole citing historical basis.China has conducted various land reclamations and constructions in the South China Sea since the dispute to which the Philippines responded with an arbitration case undert the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Central Luzon army, police heads discuss election security plans

From The Standard (Oct 3): Central Luzon army, police heads discuss election security plans

Brig. Gen. Henry Sabarre, commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, met  Friday with top officials of the Central Luzon police to discuss security plans in preparation for the 2016 presidential polls within their joint area of operations.

Central Luzon has had instances of election-related violence.

“Our division would be the main security provider during election time. The Central Luzon regional police are our counterpart. Both commands should discuss and agree at some points for the smooth implementation of our joint security plan and actions,” Sabarre said.

Regional police director Chief Supt.Rudy Lacadin, meanwhile, said the conference has focused on identifying areas in the region which have incidents of election-related killings by warring political groups.

“Our aim in this meeting is to have unified efforts among members of the security forces hand-in-hand with counterparts in other government agencies so that the forthcoming elections will be secured and fair through the signing of the Joint PNP-AFP Security Plan,” he said.

Pursuant to Resolution No. 9571 of the Commission on Elections, the PNP and AFP are deputized to assist Comelec in its security preparations for the elections.

Comelec regional election director Temie Lambino said they have asked both commands to have the conference seven months before elections so they will have enough time to revise and enhance the security plan.

Lambino said the regional election office and the PNP-AFP security providers will be coming out of a list of election hotspot areas in the next coming months where security preparations are now being discussed by them.

Both Sabarre and Lacadin agreed to work together to identify these areas including political parties and personalities and their private armed groups.

“Our objective here is to prevent the formation by unscrupulous politicians of more PAGs while we intensify efforts to eliminated the existing ones. As of now, we’re closely working with the regional police to eliminate PAGs operating in our AOR,” Sabarre said.

USS Ronald Reagan finally arrives in Japan

From Ang Malaya (Oct 1): USS Ronald Reagan finally arrives in Japan

United States Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) finally arrived at its new home-port, US Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Yokosuka, Japan today. USS Ronald Reagan is replacing USS George Washington (CVN 73). Reagan left its home-port for 9 years, Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego August 31.

“Ronald Reagan has been embraced as America’s Flagship. Not only does she have strong ties to Americans, she also has ties to the people of Japan,” said Rear Admiral John Alexander, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet. “In 2011 Ronald Reagan was one of the first responders to assist in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the east coast of Japan during Operation Tomodachi. The ties that were established with the ship and our host nation will continue to grow.”

Reagan will be operating under the US Seventh Fleet. The 7th Fleet area of operations includes 36 maritime countries and the world’s five largest foreign armed forces – the People’s Republic of China, Russia, India, North Korea and the Republic of Korea. Five of the seven U.S. Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the area – Republic of the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

The deployment provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the US and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. USS Ronald Reagan is deployed with its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5.

ESamar guv welcomes former NPAs

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 1): ESamar guv welcomes former NPAs

BORONGAN CITY, Eastern Samar  --- Top provincial officials, particularly those from the peace and security sectors welcomed the 11 former rebels who have decided to return to the folds of the law.

In an interview with PIA, one of the 11 former rebels said that they surrender because  living like fugitives in their mountains was hard.

No less than Eastern Samar Governor Conrado B. Nicart, Jr. , Police Senior Supt. Romeo P. Campomanes, Provincial Director, Eastern Samar Police Provincial Office (ESPPO), the 8th Infantry Division, Brigade Commander, Col. Perfecto M. Rimando, 14th Infantry Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Peter B. Burgonio and other officials gathered to welcome the 11 former rebels during the Provincial Peace and Order  Council Meeting (PPOC) held at the Governor’s Conference Hall on September 23, 2015.

Governor Nicart,  in a statement, said he welcomed the rebel returnees and congratulated them for their decision to return to the government.

“The surrender of these 11 rebel returnees is the realization of the peace efforts that we really want,” Gov. Nicart further said.

During the meeting, Governor Nicart distributed checks in the amount of P65,000.00 wherein P15,000.00 of which was for immediate assistance and P50,000.00 for livelihood assistance  to 11 surrenderees.

It was learned that the former rebels will enagage in hog raising, poultry raising and sari-sari store establishment.

According to Ms. Gemma A. Amit, OIC-Provincial Director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Field Office, the assistance came from  the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

CLIP focuses in the integration program for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front (NDF) who have decided to abandon armed struggle and be mainstreamed into society.

Mayor in Spratlys: Philippines ‘caught between 2 lovers’

From Rappler (Oct 2): Mayor in Spratlys: Philippines ‘caught between 2 lovers’

Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon says that while it helps to have a dependable ally, ‘in this world, there’s no such thing as a free meal’

PENTAGON MEETING. Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon (3rd from left) meets with Dennis McGinn (4th), the US Navy's assistant secretary for energy, installations, and environment, accompanied by members of the US Pinoys for Good Governance on September 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of Eric Lachica/USPGG

PENTAGON MEETING. Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon (3rd from left) meets with Dennis McGinn (4th), the US Navy's assistant secretary for energy, installations, and environment, accompanied by members of the US Pinoys for Good Governance on September 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of Eric Lachica/USPGG

Eugenio Bito-onon, mayor of Kalayaan town in the disputed Spratly Islands, urged the United States to help the Philippines in its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Speaking to international journalists, Bito-onon, however, cautioned the Philippines against depending solely on allies, as the country is “caught between two lovers.”

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Bito-onon said: “The Philippines has become so weak, and it’s advantageous to have an ally that is dependable. But in this world, there’s no such thing as a free meal. You have to choose which allies would be good for you. Would it be good for China to be an ally, or the US?”

“We say the Philippines is caught between two lovers,” Bito-onon said in the interview published Monday, September 28.

On the one hand, the US, after all, is one of the Philippines' strategic partners, with which the Southeast Asian country also has a mutual defense treaty. (READ: US to act 'in a matter of hours' if PH sovereignty is challenged)

China, on the other hand, remains one of the Philippines' biggest trading partners, as the Asian giant pursues a “peaceful rise” in the Asia Pacific. (READ: China urges trade with PH across 'sea of peace')

'US can aid weaker countries'

The mayor then asked: “Which lover is better: one that gives you a lot of headaches, takes away your islands, tries to get the whole of your natural wealth for the next generation? Or the other, which has a history of supporting you and has promised to defend you, even if it has flaws of its own?”

“I appreciate that the Philippines has the US as an ally. But the Philippines should not be so stupid as to fully depend on its allies. It has to develop its own capability,” Bito-onon said, as quoted in the New York Times’ China blog called Sinosphere.

Bito-onon’s town, Kalayaan, is located in the West Philippine Sea with Pag-asa Island as its seat of government. Government data show at least 222 people live in Kalayaan town, as a way of asserting the Philippines’ claim over the West Philippine Sea.

In another interview published by The Diplomat on Tuesday, September 29, Bito-onon also pointed out that filing a case against China is “the best move” by President Benigno Aquino III in Manila’s dispute with Beijing.

The Philippines is pursuing a historic case against China before an arbitral tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands, and is expecting the tribunal to issue a ruling by 2016.

Bito-onon told The Diplomat: “I think that without a capable and interested arbiter or negotiator that could intervene in the situation, China will continue to bully and harass weaker states in the South China Sea considering that it has already dwarfed all other occupants with its man-made islands. The United States can come to the aid of weaker and smaller countries as an intervenor or broker.”

Mayor’s prayer: ‘No shooting war’

The Kalayaan mayor made these statements during his recent trip to the US.

On Monday, he visited Dennis McGinn, the US Navy’s assistant secretary for energy, installations, and environment, in the Pentagon. The two officials discussed the proposed “eco-tourism zone” in the Spratlys, according to the group US Pinoys Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG), members of which accompanied Bito-onon.

USPGG, which is chaired by Filipino philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis, has actively protested China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea.

In his interview with the New York Times, Bito-onon also suggested that the US “should frequently pass” through the South China Sea, “just to test what China would really do.”

“If a problem arises, if there’s trouble, or they have an encounter, then so be it. That would make a solution faster. There is no person stupid enough to wage a third world war,” the Kalayaan mayor said.

He also pointed out that if the arbitral tribunal at The Hague rules in favor of the Philippines, “the world would condemn China.”

China seems to have no more friends. The pressure against China is building, and I believe they will be forced to sit down and negotiate,” Bito-onon said.

“Right now,” he added, “I just pray that there will be no shooting war.”

US Marines Learn to Survive in Philippine Jungle

Posted to DVIDS (Oct 2): US Marines Learn to Survive in Philippine Jungle


U.S. Marines with 3D Reconnaissance Battalion and Philippine Marines, with 64th Force Reconnaissance Company, Marine Special Operation Forces Group, learn to survive in the jungle during Jungle Environment Survival Training during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 (PHIBLEX 15) at Ternate, Philippines, Sept. 29. PHIBLEX 15 is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Marine and Navy Forces with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across the range of military operations from disaster relief, to complex expeditionary operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Harold S Johnson/ Released)

Sailors launch petition demanding Harper act on Philippines abductions

From The Globe and Mail (Oct 1): Sailors launch petition demanding Harper act on Philippines abductions
A group of globetrotting sailors has launched an online petition demanding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper intervene in the case of four people abducted in the Philippines, two of them Canadian.

“We can make saving these Canadians an election issue,” petition founder Trish Bates wrote in an e-mail to fellow sailors this week, after a friend of hers was among those snatched shortly before midnight on Sept. 21 from the Holiday Oceanview Samal Marina in the southern Philippines.

Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel were taken along with Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Filipina, Maritess Flor. They have not been heard from since, although there are indications they have been taken to Jolo, the stronghold for extremist Islam criminal group Abu Sayyaf.

The disappearances touch heavily on Canada. Mr. Sekkingstad lived for years in Canada and also carries a Canadian passport, according to two friends, one of whom has known Mr. Sekkingstad for 13 years and said he has seen the passport. Ms. Flor is dating Mr. Hall. And the Filipino owners of the Holiday Oceanview also spent years in Canada; some of them, too, carry Canadian passports, sailors said.

Now, members of the tight-knit yachting community are calling on the Government of Canada to do more, in the hope that the treatment of Canadians abroad can be taken up on the campaign trail.

Several dozen have signed a petition headlined “Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada: Support the Philippine Four.”

“Search and rescue efforts for these four may be more effective if Canada offers the Philippine government additional resources,” the petition reads. “Here is a chance for Mr. Harper to demonstrate how well he cares for his citizens.”

After being taken away on boats last week, the abducted victims vanished. A major search conducted by police, the military and supportive rebel groups has failed to locate them. It now appears that a naval blockade also failed to keep them from escaping the Samal Island area, on the east of the Philippines region of Mindanao.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the powerful mayor of Davao have in recent days said information suggests that the victims had been taken to the Sulu Archipelago, about 600 kilometres by water to the west of Samal Island.

On the weekend, the military recovered a boat it believes was used in the abduction at Jolo, one of the Sulu islands. Jolo is the headquarters for Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist group with ties to al-Qaeda that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and has for nearly two decades captured foreigners for ransom.

But police say they still have no confirmation of where the four people are, and no ransom demand has been received.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department said in an e-mailed statement that “the Government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise continuing efforts and risk endangering the safety of Canadian citizens abroad.”

Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also declined comment, with a spokesman saying “this is an ongoing situation.”

People kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf have sometimes been kept for long periods of time, a prospect that frightens Ms. Bates, an Australian living at British Columbia’s Saltspring Island.

“I want to get Kjartan out of there. I don’t want him sitting in some concrete bunker for 10 months,” she said.

Ms. Bates and her husband, Will, have for several years kept their 36-foot trimaran shanghaied at the Holiday Oceanview Samal, where Mr. Sekkingstad has worked as manager. For nearly a decade, he has overseen its construction and operations, turning it into a haven for sailors.

The marina sits outside the normal typhoon range and next to Davao City, which is known as the safest in the Philippines – and one of the most secure urban centres on Earth.

“I never locked up the vehicle I had, or locked up the house. And nothing went missing,” said Bill Moseley, a Canadian sailor who has known Mr. Sekkingstad since 2002. He called the abduction “hard to believe.”

Only a few years ago, there were times when just three yachts tied up at the marina. But Mr. Sekkingstad’s efforts have been paying off. This year, the berths have been full.

Ms. Bates worries that success courted danger. More recently, “they had something like 70 yachts in there, which is enormous for the place, and some very high-profile, very high-end power yachts. And I think that attracted too much attention,” she said. “That’s one idea I had about why this raid happened now.”

Skirmishes trigger more evacuations in Surigao Sur town

From MindaNews (Oct 2): Skirmishes trigger more evacuations in Surigao Sur town
A fresh wave of fighting between Army soldiers and an unidentified armed group triggered a new round of evacuees in this town on Friday.

Marihatag Mayor Allan Pelenio told a Senate Committee on Justice public hearing in Tandag City that more than 200 Manobo families or 1,000 persons fled their homes in Barangay Mahaba, eight kilometers from the town center.

Pelenio said he sent two trucks to fetch the residents from three sitios from Barangay Mahaba and from the village’s central area.

“There is nothing left there right now except stray dogs and untended pigs,” Barangay Mahaba Kagawad Alejandro Sanchez said.

Sanchez said they fled their villages after a fresh wave of fighting erupted between soldiers and armed men believed to be New People’s Army rebels.

He said they could hear the fighting getting nearer to their houses so they decided to flee Thursday night.

Benny Kanon, 64, however, said they saw members of the Bagani terror group led by Bobby Tejero, suspect in the Sept. 1 killing of a school director and two lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Kanon said Tejero and the Bagani groups came after the soldiers arrived in their village on Thursday and demanded that the villagers identify NPA members among them.

“We have to flee because we do not want to become their victims,” he said.

Senator Teofisto Guingona said the Philippine National Police and the Army should arrest Bobby Tejero, his brother Loloy Abab Tejero and Garito Layno to restore the confidence of the lumads.

“The name of Bobby Tejero is already enough to trigger a mass evacuation. They should be arrested. This is step no. 1 to restore the confidence of the lumads,” Guingona said.

Police have filed murder charges, grave threats and arson against the suspects for the killing of Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), a school for lumads.

The PNP and Army have formed Task Force Bangkaw (Spear) to immediately arrest the suspects.

Extortion eyed in bus bomb explosion in South Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Extortion eyed in bus bomb explosion in South Cotabato
Police authorities are eyeing extortion as behind the bomb explosion inside a passenger bus in Polomolok town in South Cotabato around noon Thursday that injured 18 people.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, confirmed Friday that the management of Yellow Bus Line (YBL) Inc. based in Koronadal City received a call from a person who claimed to be a member of the Al-Khobar gang several minutes before the blast.

“The caller identified himself as a member of the Al-Khobar and warned that they planted an explosive in one of their bus units,” he said.

The official said a secretary of the bus company received the call at around 11:50 a.m. or less than 10 minutes before the bomb exploded inside a YBL bus unit with body number 2008 and license plate MWD 296 at a portion of the national highway in Barangay Silway 7 in Polomolok.

The passenger bus, which originated from Koronadal City and en route to this city, had just left the public terminal of Polomolok when the explosion came.

It had also made a brief stop in Tupi town in South Cotabato as part of its route.

Eighteen of the 34 passengers, including a week-old baby, were injured in the blast and were rushed to various hospitals here.

Most of the victims only sustained minor injuries and four of them were still confined at a private hospital here as of Friday morning.

Citing accounts from witnesses, Camba said two unidentified persons boarded the bus along the national highway in Tupi town and placed a package at the overhead compartment near center section of the bus.

The two reportedly disembarked from the bus at the Polomolok public terminal, he said.

“We’re not discounting other possible angles and our investigators are currently digging deeper in to the case,” Camba said.

Based on results of the post-blast investigation conducted by the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, the explosive was placed in red plastic and blue sando bags that were left near the sixth and seventh rows of the bus’ overhead compartment.

Sr. Supt. Jose Briones Jr., South Cotabato police director, said it was fashioned from a PRB 423 fragmentation grenade that was attached to several batteries and a cellphone, which was used as triggering device.

The grenade’s fuse was removed and modified, and the means of initiation was electric,” he said.

Last month, police recovered a similarly-fashioned explosive planted on a bus unit that was parked at YBL terminal here.

In July, a bomb also exploded inside a YBL bus unit after making a brief stop at the terminal of Sto. Nino town in South Cotabato.

The Al-Khobar group, which was tagged in a string of extortion-related attacks in Region 12 and the neighboring areas in the past several years, had taken responsibility over previous bomb attacks involving YBL bus units in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Leyte recognizes counter-insurgency efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Leyte recognizes counter-insurgency efforts

The Leyte provincial government commended 37 individuals for the successful implementation of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) intended for former rebels.

Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla handed the plaques and certificates on Thursday to 37 personalities composed of army officials, policemen, provincial peace and order council members, and local government officials.

CLIP seeks to contribute towards achieving the goal of permanent and peaceful closure of all armed conflicts with non-state armed groups.

It aims to facilitate the mainstreaming of former rebels as productive citizens and to enhance capacities of local government units and national government agencies in the implementation and sustainability of the project.

Petilla said that the support of the local government unit is an important factor for peace to prosper and ensure development.

Vice Governor Carlo P. Loreto said that “peace cannot be allowed to go astray; we have to take care of it.”

“Today we celebrate peace with the hope that we will remember there is no substitute for a prosperous province or town, which is the best defense against war and the evils that come with it,” said Loreto.

The CLIP focuses in the integration program for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front who have decided to abandon armed struggle and be mainstreamed into society.

150 Army recruits in Central Mindanao sent to training

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): 150 Army recruits in Central Mindanao sent to training

A new set of 150 recruits coming from various parts of Central Mindanao began Thursday a five-month training course at this camp headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) to become regular members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The candidate-soldiers were immediately sent to the 6ID Training School situated in nearby Barangay Semba, Datu Odin Sinsuat town to start their two-phase schooling program.

The phases comprises the basic military training that would run for three months, and the jungle warfare mountain operations course that would occupy the remaining two months of the program.

During the training, the recruits are expected to undergo intense and abrupt changes in their personal lifestyles in acculturation to military standards.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6ID commander, he requires the training to be purposive and relevant to ensure a mind-set that everything done in defense of the Republic against perceived enemies is essentially important.

The trainees, upon completion of the program, would be assimilated to various 6ID brigade units scattered across the region.

PA's 9ID holds 11th foundation day

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): PA's 9ID holds 11th foundation day

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur – The 9th Infantry (Spear) Division of the Philippine Army based in Camp Elias Angeles, Pili, Camarines Sur commemorated its 11th Founding Anniversary on Thursday.

The event was highlighted by an awarding ceremony led by Maj. Gen. Yerson E. Depayso, 9ID commander, in recognition of the accomplishments and contributions of Spear troopers to the unit’s mission.

Among those military personnel who received Gold Cross Medals were Cpl. Pedro L. Cañeso III, Pfc. Boyet P. Retreta, Pfc. Edmar J. Lumapag and Pfc. Aaron L Magbuhat of the 31st Infantry Battalion.

Bronze Cross Medal was given each to Maj. Peter Louie F. Solosa of 5th ISU; Pfc. Leonel G. Torrel and Pfc. Verson M. Alim of 49th Infantry Battalion for acts of heroism, with risk of life.

The three soldiers were members of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Team sent by the 49th Infantry Battalion on April 5 to the municipality of Mercedes, Camarines Norte to save a girl who was already drowning.

In spite of the storm alerts on that week, amid strong currents and heavy winds, the three military personnel, without fear and hesitation, applied the necessary skills to save the life of the victim.

Military Merit Medals with Spearhead Device was also awarded each to Capt. Jay S. Dumaog and Pfc. Virgilio D. Pomarejo; Military Merit Medal to 1Lt. Devo L. Bubuli for meritorious and invaluable services rendered as commanding officer of the 9th Post Engineering Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion, 9ID, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2014 for implementing various command projects.

The same award was received by Sgt. Romulo B. Mirando of 9PED for meritorious and remarkable achievements rendered as member of the 9ID Disaster Response Operation Platoon in the conduct of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response operation during the aftermath of the typhoons that hit the Bicol Region in 2014 to 2015 and another Military Merit Medal for CAA Hubert S. Pagao of 22 Infantry Battalion (IB).

Plaque of Recognition was also given to 1Lt. Karl Erwin G. Guardacasa of 42IB, adjudged as 9ID Junior Officer of the Year; SSg. Alfredo L. Aynaga Jr. of 42IB for being the Enlisted Personnel of the Year and CAA Sanne T Bagacena of 22IB as the CAA of the Year.

Moreover, Award of the Commander, 9ID Philippine Army Streamer as the Best Infantry Brigade was also given to the 902IB for obtaining the highest overall results among the three infantry brigades of the 9ID in the triad operations and unit administration, during the conduct of “Best-best” competition for the period from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015.

The same unit award was also received by the 42IB and 93rd Division Reconnaissance Company as 9ID's Best Infantry Battalion and Best Recon Company, respectively.

The following army unit, officers and personnel were also awarded as winners for the 9ID Sportsfest 2015: 22IB as champion for basketball, Division Headquarters for 1st Runner-up and 9CMOB as 2nd Runner-up; in volleyball, the Division Headquarters was regarded as the champion while 9MIB and Headquarters Service Battalion as 1st and 2nd runners-up. respectively.

Individual winners in various sports competitions also received awards.

In his message, Depayso remembered his early years as a junior officer assigned in the area of Camarines Sur.

He said the peace and security situation then in the province was totally different from that of the present.

The presence of New People’s Army rebels was widespread that time that they even managed to destroy the Tara Bridge at Sipocot, Camarines Sur by bombing it.

“Peace is at now hand in the present and it’s because of the presence of the 9th Infantry Division in the Bicol Region and the cooperation of the stakeholders. Discipline is indeed helpful in professionalizing our ranks,” Depayso said.

The 9ID commander also thanked the Spear troopers for their sacrifices and contributions to what 9ID has achieved.

According to him, each Spear trooper is a team player.

He also exhorted each member of the command to continue giving his best to realize the goal of “Winning the Peace in Bicol Region”.

In its 11th year of existence in Bicol Region, the 9th Infantry Division will continue its untiring effort in bringing excellent service for the Bicolanos, Depayso said.

MILF lauds WB, private sectors support to Mindanao peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): MILF lauds WB, private sectors support to Mindanao peace process

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leadership on Friday lauded the efforts of World Bank and other national and international non government organizations in supporting the Mindanao peace process although an enabling law that will create new political entity in southern Philippines hangs in the balance.

”We are pleased the private sector, both international and local, recognize the need for genuine peace in southern Philippines,” MILF chieftain Al Haj Murad said in a statement.

Last week, Murad told World Bank officials and private sector representatives of the MILF’s desire to work with the private sector in helping attain the aspirations of Moro people – that is genuine and lasting peace.

He said the peace for Bangsamoro people will also benefit the entire country.

World Bank officials and representatives from the country’s big business visit the MILF officials to express its determination to continue supporting the Mindanao peace process by critical projects in infrastructure, community-driven development projects and social services in support of job creation.

In a statement, Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Vice President for East Asia, said WB focuses in contributing to areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) disturbed by peace and order problems in the past but slowly recovering.

WB is pushing for change and improvement in education, maternal health and infrastructure, hoping to generate employment and opportunities that will bring the poor people out of poverty.

Van Trotsenburg said WB believed in the peace process in Mindanao. “The Bank continues to believe in the peace process for a region that was seriously affected by conflict,” he said.

“The peace process is really all about people, including children who have lost parents to conflict, families suffering from poverty, unemployed young people lured into armed groups and lives of violence,” Van Trotsenburg said.

“Building peace takes time, especially where poverty and conflict have become prevalent. We hope all parties stay the course in Mindanao, because there is no alternative to peace,” he added.

He added WB is hoping its efforts, in partnership with government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the private sectors in transforming ARMM into a more prosperous and developed region in Mindanao.

Van Trotsenburg led a delegation of INGO representatives in a visit to Cotabato City.

His group included representatives from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector investment arm, and met with leaders of civil society groups, including women’s organizations and MILF leaders to hear about the aspirations of a people who have suffered from decades of conflict and underdevelopment.

Executives of Ayala Corporation, Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), First Agri-Holdings Corp accompanying the WB official met with MILF chief Al Haj Murad at the latter’s office in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao early this week.

Manila and the MILF forged a peace deal last year - Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ending decades old armed conflict in Mindanao. A draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will finalize the peace process is still pending in Congress.

The MILF does not lose hope the draft law will hurdle political issues and becomes a law.

Police activates SITG to probe Basilan blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Police activates SITG to probe Basilan blast

The police has activated a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) to conduct deep investigation over the roadside bombing incident on Thursday in Isabela City, the capital of the nearby province of Basilan.

Newly-promoted Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, Basilan police director told the Philippines News Agency the members of the SITG will comprise of personnel from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG); Isabela City police; military personnel and from other government agencies.

Nantes, as the Basilan police director, will be the head of the SITG.

A powerful bomb exploded killing four people and injured 11 others who were together in a convoy with Isabela City Vice Mayor Abdulbaki Ajibon.

The explosion occurred around 1:10 p.m. Thursday along the road in Barangay Sunrise, Isabela City while Ajibon’s convoy was passing.

The bomb exploded just outside the main gate of the compound of Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar.

Ajibon escaped unscathed although the vehicle he was riding was damaged during the blast.

Three of Ajibon’s companions, including two staffs, were killed in the blast. A city government employee who was in the vicinity of the incident was also killed.

Supt. Albert Larubis, Isabela City police chief, identified the fatalities as Muhaimin Jali, Ulah Maulla, and Ramil Omar, former barangay captain of Balatanay, Isabela City. They were together with Ajibon in the convoy.

The fourth fatality was Gregorio Heneral Delgado, a city government employee. He was in the vicinity of the blast site as he was on the way to a store.

Wounded were the following: Abdullah Alìh Ismael, former barangay captain of San Rafael, Isabela City; Sattar Swaib Abdul and Tupay Kalbi, Ajibun’s security escorts; Nurhaida Dela Cruz; Hadji Amlon Adam; Sali Appan Utal, 74; Timhar Mohammad; Gammar Tiplani, 57; Sonny Tanjali, 50; Grace Torres; and, Florante Agustin.

Larubis said most of the victims were together with Ajibon in a convoy while the some are passersby and residents living near the blast site.

Nantes said the investigation will focus on all possible motives behind the attempt on the life of the vice mayor in a bid to unmask the suspects.

Ajibon said he believes the motive on the bomb attack on his convoy was politically motivated.

However, Ajibon said he is leaving it to the SITG to unmask the culprits and bring them before the bar of justice.

Duterte hits back at Palparan for calling him coddler of communist rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Duterte hits back at Palparan for calling him coddler of communist rebels

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte hits back at retired army general Jovito Palparan calling him “pathetic” and “bigot” for tagging him as “Red-Coddler” in an article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday.

“The accusation that I am a “Red-coddler” is a perfect example of the bigotry, which has afflicted our country like a scourge - which breaks down Filipinos into small groups, preventing us from uniting and achieving our dreams as a people under one flag,” he added.

Duterte stressed that people like Palparan were greatest misfortune as a people is having leaders and prominent individuals who divide the country into groups.

Duterte, who has been facilitating release of soldiers and police taken by the New People’s Army (NPA) as prisoners of war, admitted he coddles the reds and feed them, too, referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-NPA. But Duterte pointed out he also coddles other colors.

“Yes, I coddle the Reds, they are Filipinos after all,” Duterte said in a press statement.

In an Inquirer report, Palparan, who is tagged as the Butcher for alleged killing, torture and disappearance of political activists, said Duterte should not run for president because of his close association of the enemy of the state in reference to the communist movement.

Palparan even cited Duterte’s permission given to the NPA on the burial march of NPA commander Leoncio Pitao alias Ka Parago. “Duterte’s support for communist rebels was very evident during the death of Kumander Parago,” Palparan was quoted as saying. Palparan was being charged for the disappearance of two students of the University of the Philippines (UP) in 2006.

Duterte said there was nothing wrong in it and that he respected the communist ideology or the Moro principle.

“I also embrace the sick, the oppressed, the weak, the scared and most of all, the children who look for security and protection as they venture into the big world looking for answers to their questions and searching for a place they could call their own,” he said. “I also coddle the other Filipinos who have been categorized to belong to the three other major colors representing the national flag -- blue, yellow and white,” Duterte added.

The mayor also emphasized that talking to the communists, rightists and the Moro rebels is part of his efforts to find common ground to bring peace and unity in the country.

Duterte also emphasized on equality and his inclusive governance that is indicated by the passage of city’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, particularly against Muslims and LGBTs; the appointment of deputy mayors representing different Muslim tribes and Lumads.

“We should be like a rainbow, a country of diverse colors but united and bound by the common desire of becoming a beautiful spectacle in the sky,” Duterte said.

Duterte said the only people he detested are the criminals and the drug dealers because unlike the revolutionaries who are motivated by their principles and ideology, they are consumed by greed and the desire to gain while causing other people pain.

Duterte noted that he has never been accused of murdering bright, young and idealistic Filipino children unlike accused Palparan, “who sees things red because of his bloodshot eyes.”

The mayor stressed that despite his friendship with communist rebels, Davao City never became a communist city. “Do you see NPA cadres carrying guns parading in the city streets?” he asked.